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France/Russia6 March 2007

French Council of State rejects request for Putin to be stripped of Legion of Honour

Reporters Without Borders said it was disappointed to learn yesterday that the French Council of State has rejected its request for Russian leader Vladimir Putin to be stripped of the Grand Cross of the Legion of Honour, which President Jacques Chirac awarded him on 22 September.

“We are not surprised by this decision, which in fact we had expected,” the press freedom organisation said. “But we are deeply disappointed by the way it was taken. France’s highest administrative body decided that Reporters Without Borders was not concerned by President Putin’s award and that, in its view, it did not constitute a violation of press freedom.”

Reporters Without Borders added: “We do not challenge this argument in legal terms, but we can only regret that the law does not allow us to criticise the award of a decoration to someone who is responsible for grave press freedom violations. Elevating Putin to the Legion of Honour’s highest rank continues to be an act unworthy of France.”

On 20 October, Reporters Without Borders addressed a formal request to the Council of State and to Chirac, as Grand Master of the Order of the Legion of Honour, to strip Putin of the Grand Cross. Under article R 128 of the Code of the Legion of Honour, foreigners can be elevated to the order for “services rendered to France or to causes it defends.”

In a release on 20 October, Reporters Without Borders said: “We do not recognise France’s fundamental values in Putin’s discourse - when he says, for example, that he wants to wipe out Chechen terrorists in the shit-house, or when he describes the independent press as means of mass disinformation and tools for combatting the state, or when he tells a French journalist who asks him about Chechnya to come and get circumcised in Moscow so nothing grows back.”

A total of 21 journalists, including Anna Politkovskaya, have been murdered in Russia with complete impunity since Putin became president in March 2000, while Chechnya continues to be a new black hole.




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